MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Madeleine Brand.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block. A contrite and grateful Michael Vick met the media today as a new member of the Philadelphia Eagles. The quarterback served 18 months in federal prison on dog fighting charges. His signing with the Eagles was a surprise. Just last week, the team's coach said Philly wasn't interested in Vick, once one of the NFL's most dynamic offensive stars. Well, now the Eagles have to integrate Vick into their team and manage the negative reaction. NPR's Mike Pesca has the story.
MIKE PESCA: The last football field Michael Vick set foot on as a professional was in Philadelphia, Lincoln Financial Field. Same place, very different time as last night, the Eagles were hosting the Patriots when a ripple went through the crowd. What's this? The home team is signing Michael Vick, the felon who's gone from incandescent to radioactive? The question on everyone's mind was voiced from Vick himself in today's press conference.
Mr. MICHAEL VICK (Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles): Well, I know everybody's thinking: Why Philadelphia?
PESCA: The Eagles believe that Vick can return to being a valuable player. That was the necessary condition. But the team's coaches and players also professed a belief in second chances, and a belief that Michael Vick believes these words.
Mr. VICK: I was wrong for what I did. Everything that happened at that point in time in my life was wrong and, you know, it was unnecessary. And, you know, to the life of me, to this day, I can't understand why I was involved in such pointless activity. Why did I risk so much at the pinnacle of my career?
PESCA: Last night, the Eagles' starting quarterback Donovan McNabb backed his new backup. McNabb said the two were very close since Vick was a high school star in Virginia, demonstrating running and passing skills that were drawing to comparisons to Donovan McNabb. McNabb describes himself as a mentor to Vick and said the younger quarterback was grateful and contrite.
Mr. DONOVAN MCNABB (Quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles): By me communicating with Andy and kind of lobbying to get him here, I think he saw the sincerity, as well as someone that was willing to kind of stick their neck out on the line for him.
PESCA: The Andy mentioned by McNabb is Eagles head coach Andy Reid, whose own sons have come into contact with the criminal justice system. One is currently in a state prison. One recently graduated from a drug treatment program. The coach made an allusion to his sons in explaining his decision to take on Vick.
Mr. ANDY REID (Head Coach, Philadelphia Eagles): Well, I'm going to be very honest with you. I've kind of followed Michael's situation very close with the things that my boys went through. So I've had a - they were right around the same time. So I've had a chance to kind of follow that, and I know the things that Michael has gone through.
PESCA: Two of the country's most prominent animal rights groups, the Humane Society and the ASPCA, expressed a hopeful tone in press releases. PETA expressed disappointment. Some Eagles fans have already rendered their verdicts. Outside the team's training facility today, a few dozen fans assembled, some with their dogs.
Barbara Pessetta(ph) of Ridley Township, Pennsylvania shared the majority sentiment.
Ms. BARBARA PESSETTA: I'm not an Eagles fan anymore. I have my own business, which is a dog-grooming business. I sell Eagles products, and they are all going to be burned. And I am going to invite my customers to come and burn all their Eagles gear.
PESCA: Contractually, Vick is to be paid $1.6 million this year, but will serve a suspension of a length determined by league commissioner Roger Goodell. Goodell has said he will rule on Vick's reinstatement by week six of the NFL's 17-week season.
Mike Pesca, NPR News.
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